Bloggers are debating over Twitter whether their ‘About’ sections should be written in first person or third. There are bloggers who feel very strongly that first person is always best on a personal website. Others argue that third person is always better.
First Things First
Before I give my opinion, I must ask: you do have an About section on your blog, don’t you?
If not, stop what you’re doing, put any other blog project you have on the front burner to the back and get busy. You need an About section. It’s crucial if you want to connect with your readers, particularly new ones who stumble upon your blog.
It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be long enough to explain who you are, why you write about what you write about, and, if possible, what makes your opinion on said topics valuable.
For example, if you’re a single mom of five kids, and you write about parenting issues, the fact that you’re raising five by yourself definitely gives you credibility on the subject of parenting: you not only see it all, but you have to deal with it all singlehandedly. That’s impressive.
If you write a blog about photography, it’s fine to mention that you’ve been taking pictures since you were a little Boy Scout. But if you work for a newspaper and have won 3 Pulitzer Prizes for your professional photography, that little detail gives you major points on the subject.
Maybe you don’t write about any one topic. (Whether that is wise is a subject for another post.) In that case, why not give your readers some information about your interests and what you do: anything that might help them see that you do have an interesting perspective on things.
Then there’s the subject of the photo. Yes, you need one. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who works in television, but has, as the saying goes, “a face for radio.”
Readers like to see who they’re reading. It’s just a fact. You can deny it all you like, but if you’re really honest, you must admit that you’re curious about the person whose blog you’re reading. You’d like to see what they look like and who they are.
There are, occasionally, valid reasons why you might not want to include a photograph, particularly if you’re writing about your workplace (especially if you’re doing so in a strongly negative way or in violation of your workplace’s blogging/social media policy); or if you’re a well-known person who wishes to remain anonymous. If you have such a reason, then you may be off the hook for displaying a photograph.
You are not, however, off the hook for giving your readers a little information about who you are. It’s the courteous thing to do.
The Big Question
So which is it? Should your About section be written in first person or third person?
First person involves the use of I, me and my. It reads as if the blogger himself wrote what you’re reading personally. Therefore, obviously, it feels more personal:
I’ve worked in television for 20 years as a reporter, director and marketing producer. I also love animals and have volunteered with a rescue group in Virginia. I now live in Charleston in my home state of South Carolina.
Third person involves the use of the person’s name, he and his. It reads as if someone else wrote the biography material instead of the person himself. That is to say, it reads like a Forward in a book.
Patrick is a 20-year television veteran, having worked both sides of the camera as a reporter, director and marketing producer. He is a lifelong animal lover and resides in Charleston, South Carolina.
Which one sounds like what you’d hear if you were standing face to face with the writer talking about his blog in person? The first, of course.
That’s why you want a first-person blog bio.
So when does third person work better?
If you’re a business. Yes, you. If your website is the online face of your business, even if it’s a public site, and you’re more interested in attracting customers than readers, clients than followers. Even then, third person won’t always help you, unless you make your business look big enough that it somehow seems appropriate.
But a third person bio will make it appear that you’re so big, you need someone else to write about you. (That’s precisely why a third person bio on a blog can easily feel pretentious.)
If yours is a small business and that’s a selling point for you, along the lines of “We’re small enough to care” or “You won’t be treated like a number with us,” I’d still recommend first person About pages. You’ll make that critical personal, one-on-one connection at which small businesses excel.
The Modesty Argument
One of the most recurring arguments I’ve heard about why third person is better involves awards and accomplishments that the blogger wants to highlight. “If I write, ‘I’ve won this award and that award, and ‘I’ve done this and that,’ It’ll sound like I’m just trying to brag.”
I chuckle at this argument every time.
Of course you’re trying to brag! Why else would you feel the need to list a bunch of accomplishments? There are valid reasons to rattle them off, including establishing yourself as an authority on a given subject.
But listing them in third person sounds more like bragging to the reader, not less. If you really want to avoid the whole bragging feel, but you feel the need to list the accomplishments anyway, use first person and explain why the accolades mean a lot to you, or why you want to help other people achieve the same ones. Humility doesn’t work well in third person, no matter how hard you try.
That’s my take.
Which do you prefer when you want to check out a blogger’s About page: first or third?